From dark horse to Black Beauty: The story of Wimbledon’s hidden riding school gem

As you walk up Wimbledon Hill Road past the imposing Dog and Fox pub there is little to suggest that you are only meters away from one of London’s top stables.

Yet tucked behind the pub is the Wimbledon Village Stables – the oldest recorded in England – just a stones throw from the famous common.

Claire Mallett, who has been running the office at the stables for the past 11 years, said proudly: “It’s more than just a stables – it’s a community.”

Despite having the honour of being the oldest stables in England there was a precarious time in 1980 when the yard’s very existence was under threat.

The land the stables stand on was put up for sale and a bidding war ensued between five rivals groups including Merton Council who planned to turn the site into a multi-story car park.

Luckily for riding enthusiasts a group, led by Walter Stevenson, won the bidding battle and saved the stables which have been in the family ever since and are now owned by Walter’s daughter.

Ms Mallett said: “We have a lovely team here, we work and socialise together – everyone gets on.

“Doing this job you get to meet a lot of different people and we have lot of lovely, interesting clients.

“The Village is an amazing setting, why wouldn’t you want to ride on Wimbledon Common every day?”

Wimbledon VS Riding group

Since rescue and renovation in the 1980s the stables have gone from strength to strength winning a string of local awards, most recent of which was the 2013 Merton Best Business award.

The club members are also known for their regular significant contributions to charity.

Events such as sponsored rides and a charity ball helped them raise a staggering £27,500 in 2013.

Since they began fund-raising the club has raised more than half a million pounds.

Ms Mallett praised the club members and said: “We are also very lucky that our members are so supportive in helping us raise money for charity.

“As soon as we have an event planned we have people signing up immediately and offering to help.

“It’s more than just what we do as a stable yard, it’s what we do for charities, the horses and the community.”

Jen Hesketh has been an instructor at the stables for five years and is in no doubt that her job is worth getting up for – even if it’s before sunrise on some days.

“The best thing about being here is the environment. It’s a family environment because it’s a family run business and Carol has this knack of picking the best staff and the best horses,” she said.

“It makes for a really unique feel, it’s a very warm and accepting environment – everyone is welcome. It’s a great setup and a fabulous place to work.”

As they approach their centenary year Wimbledon Village Stables have 25 horses and ponies and more than 200 members.

So despite its inconspicuous location, Wimbledon Village Stables has been making waves in South West London for 99 years on the trot.

The message from its passionate staff is ‘saddle up for the next 99’!

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